By Patrick Everson
FOX Sports Gambling Writer
There’s no real debate about which game is the biggest in this week’s NFL betting market. How can you argue otherwise when you get two first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks facing each other?
Following are insights on that clash and several more betting nuggets on NFL Week 3 odds and college football Week 4 odds.
Rodgers vs. Brady
Sharp bettors aren’t always going to get it right. If they did, they’d all be millionaires. But they put a lot more time and effort into analysis, analytics, models and such. So they tend to make much more informed wagers than … well, me, you and most people who bet on sports.
One professional bettor I connect with regularly felt great about the Saints +3 on the spread last week. But the Buccaneers’ defense had another strong effort, and New Orleans lost 20-10.
Still, this sharp player is just fine fading the Bucs again this week. Tampa Bay’s wideout corps is either suspended (Mike Evans) or dealing with injuries (Chris Godwin/Julio Jones). And the Bucs’ offensive line is banged up, too, heading into this national FOX broadcast at 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday.
“The Tampa O-line is a disaster. Green Bay is the play. I took the Packers +3 opener,” he said. “Green Bay is solid in the trenches on both sides. Brady has weapons banged up and suspended.”
You can’t get Packers +3 anymore, as that line was only available early in the week. Depending on where you bet, Green Bay is now down to a 1.5-point or 1-point underdog, because the wiseguys didn’t stop at +3.
“We took a bet from a respected player on the Packers +2 Tuesday,” WynnBet trader John Manica said, noting his shop is among those with the Packers at +1.
Most oddsmakers will need the Indianapolis Colts this weekend to get it together and show up against the Kansas City Chiefs. Rex Beyers, now head of wagering at PlayUp USA after previous stops at The SuperBook and Caesars Sports, among others, expects to be in the rare spot of needing the Chiefs.
“The Colts have looked absolutely abysmal and awful. They’re banged up, and they were not very good last week,” Beyers said, noting Indy’s stunning 24-0 loss at Jacksonville. “Now the Colts come home against a team that’s coming off extra rest.”
Indeed, K.C. beat the Los Angeles Chargers 27-24 in the Week 2 Thursday night game. Yet the Colts have gotten strong interest at PlayUp.
“If you give me one team to win the Super Bowl right now, I’d take the Chiefs,” Beyers said. “My power rating makes this game Chiefs -6. But there’s an All-Star team of wiseguys on the ‘dog at +6.5 and +6, and that’s why this game is at 5.5. As things stand right now, we’re gonna need the Chiefs, so we’ll be in the minority. It could change, but I don’t think it will.”
The matchup has a 1 p.m. ET kickoff.
“It’s gonna be a game where we have to hold on and hope the Colts are not as bad as we think they are,” Beyers said. “The number is big. That’s a Colts team that was embarrassed last week, and I’d expect a hair-on-fire effort from them.”
Everyone knows Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills can put up points. But people found out in the fourth quarter of Miami’s Week 2 upset of Baltimore that the Dolphins can score, too. Trailing 35-14 entering the fourth quarter, Tua Tagovailoa & Co. scored four touchdowns and won 42-38.
That led to quite a change in the total.
“The Bills-Dolphins total opened between 50 and 51 on [last week’s] look-ahead numbers,” WynnBet’s Manica said. “Then we saw the Dolphins put up a late offensive display, coupled with the Bills’ [41-7] beatdown of the Titans, and a substantial move on the Over took place quickly to as high as 54.”
There was some resistance once the total got to 54, bringing the total down to 52.5 by midweek.
“I believe most models have this total lower, as two divisional opponents will collide. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this close lower than the current market of 52.5 or 53,” Manica said.
Back to School
We interrupt all this NFL info to bring you a nugget on college football Week 4 odds. Fourth-ranked Michigan aims to keep rolling in its Big Ten opener at home, against fellow unbeaten Maryland at noon ET Saturday on FOX.
WynnBet opened the Wolverines as 17.5-point home favorites, dipped to -17 almost immediately on Sunday evening, then went to -16.5 a short time after that. WynnBet is still at -16.5, while most sportsbooks are at -17.
“We wrote a substantial number of tickets on Michigan at prices below the current market of -17,” Manica said. “Michigan has played weak opponents and faces a step up in competition. I believe you will see a flood of money on Maryland if the market goes past 17, and likely a lot of Michigan backers at any number lower than that.”
Sunday Night Shuffle
OK, back to the NFL. One of the biggest line moves of the week so far is in the Sunday night clash between the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. Denver opened a consensus 2.5-point favorite, but the line jumped the fence by Monday, and San Fran is now -1.5.
And that’s with the Niners losing starting QB Trey Lance for the season after he suffered a broken ankle last weekend. The aforementioned sharp bettor certainly likes the 49ers with Jimmy Garoppolo back under center.
“I took San Francisco +2.5 when it opened,” he said. “Prior to the season, I mentioned what Russell Wilson is for Denver – a below-average QB. Denver is banged up, as well. And the 49ers are better off with Jimmy G at QB.”
WynnBet’s Manica noted the early Niners love this week, too.
“The Broncos have not passed the eye test in their two games, against what most consider to be two of the weaker teams in the NFL,” Manica said, alluding to a loss at Seattle and a struggle to beat visiting Houston. “We are seeing a step up in competition for the Broncos against a sound 49ers squad. San Francisco is an angle several people like. The team is in some ways aided by the loss of Lance, in that it reduces the result variance that they would have with a younger quarterback.
“Jimmy G has a strong record under Shanahan and will try to take advantage, as the Broncos are still trying to figure it out with the new pieces they have in place.”
Chargers‘ QB Quandary
Justin Herbert looked quite good in the Week 2 Thursday night game at Kansas City. He had the Chargers on the brink of taking a fourth-quarter lead before throwing an interception that was returned 99 yards for a touchdown. Los Angeles went on to lose 27-24, though the Bolts covered as 4-point road underdogs.
But, late in the game, Herbert suffered a rib cartilage injury, and it’s still unclear if he’ll play in Sunday’s 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Still, several sportsbooks have the Jaguars-Chargers game available to bet, with Los Angeles a consensus 7-point home favorite. Beyers is having none of it, with Herbert far too valuable to the spread to consider posting a line on this game, yet.
“I’d have no interest in booking the Chargers until I know if the quarterback is playing. I’m not in the business of playing 50/50 with the NFL,” Beyers said. “We won’t put this game up until we know who’s playing. The line and total won’t close anywhere near where they are now, 7 and 47.5. The spread will be 3 points higher or 3 points lower, depending on if Herbert plays.”
Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for VegasInsider.com. He previously worked for Covers and is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He’s based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.
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